As we near the 10-year anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, Yahoo News asked U.S. servicemen and women and their families to share their perspectives on the war and discuss how it changed them. Here's one story.
FIRST PERSON | In August 2006, my husband, Spc. Wayne Anderson, deployed to Ramadi, Iraq, with the 1-77th Armor Battalion of the Big Red One. Planned was a 12-month deployment, but that time frame changed, sometimes almost weekly. In the end, he stayed there for 15 months, the longest and most difficult 15 months of my life.
Wayne spent eight years in the Army. He was a tank mechanic, and I was 11 weeks pregnant when he left, unsure whether my child would ever meet his daddy. The Army told us they couldn't promise anything about sending him home for the birth, but they at least tried to schedule his R&R around the due date.
About two months into the deployment, I went to a Family Readiness Group meeting. We met once a month to get updates, check on each other, help and support each other and plan nice little things for our spouses, like making a Thanksgiving banner with our children's handprints, or gift bags for Christmas.
As soon as I arrived at the meeting, I noticed it. My phone. I didn't have it with me. How could I have been so stupid to leave the house without it? I actually broke down in tears and cried. My FRG leader Kim cheered me up: "It happens to all of us," she said, but that didn't help me.
I couldn't get to my phone fast enough. One missed call from a strange number. More tears welled up as I listened to the message. It was the first time that I heard his voice in months. He sounded awful, lost, lonely and defeated.
He didn't say much, other than that he had wanted to hear my voice, but I could tell that something was wrong. Later I found out that three Marine vehicles had been blown up right in front of him and he was one of the first to respond and try to help the wounded -- and the dead.
For an hour, I cried on the phone while Kim once again tried to help me and calm me down. I felt like I had failed him. Something bad had happened, and he tried to talk to me and I wasn't there. I had left my phone at home and was not there when he needed me. That would never happen again.
Today, we live in Alabama and have two beautiful children, Thomas, who is 5, and Havyn, who is 6 months old. The transition out of the Army was tougher than we expected. Civilian jobs are not as easy to get as we were told. Wayne has been working as a contractor for several years now. Time went by and at first he seemed to be doing fine. But then we noticed the changes, the mood swings, and the sometimes irrational behavior.
The walls he had put up were crumbling. PTSD had caught up with him, as it had with so many others as well. Would he change anything if he could? I doubt it. He is proud to have served his country; he thought we did the right thing. And I am proud to call him my husband.
Life changed a lot for us, especially for me, as I moved from Germany to Alabama for my husband, after his time in the Army was over. As most couples, we have our ups and downs, mainly good times, though. But every now and then the nightmares come back and he is almost like a different person, until he sees the smiles on our children's faces and feels our love for him. Then he leaves those distant places behind and comes back to us in the here and now and simply enjoys his family.
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